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Issue 217

Louise Giovanelli’s Post-Pixel Pointillism

Capturing moments of stillness and anticipation, at Workplace, London, the artist uses layers of stippled colours to conjure never-ending narratives

BY Tom Morton in Reviews , UK Reviews | 14 DEC 20

Louise Giovanelli’s paintings are concerned with stillness and anticipation – with what is, isn’t and might soon be seen. By far the largest work in the artist’s first London solo exhibition, Dyer (all works 2020) depicts a heavy theatre curtain, its deep green fabric drawn. If Dyer promises the steady unveiling of a narrative, this is at odds with the title of Giovanelli’s show, ‘in mediās rēs’, which translates as ‘in the midst of things’. Looking at the other works – seven jewel-like paintings, six of which feature human heads with downcast or hidden eyes – it seems we’ve already been thrown, without warning, into the midst of an elliptical mystery play. 

Louise Giovanelli Dyer
Louise Giovanelli, Dyer, 2020, oil on canvas, 170 × 120 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Workplace, London; photograph: Michael Pollard

In Host, a detail from Fra Angelico’s fresco The Mocking of Christ (1440–41) is replicated on two near-identical canvases (a mark of the artist’s recurring process of duplicating her work), in which St. Dominic reads a page from the Bible, seemingly unperturbed by the humiliations visited on the bleeding and blindfolded Son of God. Elsewhere, Alfred Hitchcock’s muse, the actress Tippi Hedren, is depicted glancing over her shoulder (Arena) and in the throes of ungovernable passion or perhaps gasping fear (Cameo). Meanwhile, in another pair of almost indistinguishable paintings, Axis, spills of coppery hair are bifurcated by tremulous yellow lines, their subtly different trajectories suggesting proximate frames from a roll of film. Pink thumb pads portrayed in the upper-right corners hint that the hair is a wig, held up expectantly to our eyes

Louise Giovanelli Host
Louise Giovanelli, Host, 2020, oil on canvas, 24 × 18 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Workplace, London; photograph: Michael Pollard

Built up through layers of often-stippled colour (a sort of post-pixel pointillism), Giovanelli’s canvases are as much concerned with the process of looking as they are with their motifs, in which enigmatically suspended narratives and painterly sumptuousness combine to lingeringly unsettling effect. Tenebrae is a second image of a curtain, scattered with shavings of pigment leftover from several previous works. Titled after a Christian ceremony in which candles are extinguished one by one, it points to how nothing truly ends. The persistence of matter – and images – means we are always in medias res.

'Louise Giovanelli: in mediās rēs' is on view at Workplace, London, until 18 December.

Main image: Louise Giovanelli, Cameo, 2020, oil on canvas, 30 × 23 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Workplace, London; photograph: Michael Pollard

Tom Morton is a writer, curator and contributing editor of frieze, based in Rochester, UK.